Teacher, can I do extra credit?

We’ve all heard it, after the shock of a poor grade on homework, on a test, on a major assignment/project.  It didn’t matter that I stated very clearly at the beginning of the year – I don’t believe in extra credit; I believe in doing the job correctly the first time.  Still, sticker shock persists.  

Here’s a multiple choice pop quiz for you. 

1. What is the typical excuse or thinking that goes along with, “Teacher, can I do extra credit”?
  1. My mom is going to kill me!
  2. My dad is going to kill me!
  3. My coach is going to kill me!
  4. I didn’t know it was due today!
  5. OMG! I forgot to take my book home, to study, to... The list goes on.
  6. One or two or all of the above, and probably more.   
2. What is the typical excuse or thinking that results in a note or phone call from the parent when the poor grade actually hits home?  Finish the sentence.  It’s not my child’s fault because-
  1. I couldn’t help him/her with the assignment.
  2. We had a lot of errands to run last night and didn’t get home until very late. I thought it was more important that s/he got a good night sleep.
  3. S/he had a sleepover at her friend’s house last night and couldn’t get it finished. (Really? A sleepover on a school night?!?)
  4. I didn’t know about the assignment until last night.
  5. Can s/he do extra credit to bring that grade back up?
  6. One or two or all of the above, and probably more.
A long time ago, I arrived at a solution that worked for me, and probably to a lesser degree- everyone else.  First, a returned phone call or note back to the parents. (Underlying message- Please, stop rescuing your child!)  

Next, a one-on-one with the student, after school.  

Begin with  a teacher sigh, followed by a teacher look. (I love teacher looks. Even though I’m retired, I still give them to kids misbehaving in public and their parents don’t seem to notice.  I’ve still got it!  But I digress.)  I calmly tell them they can (1) correct the homework, (2) make corrections on the test, including an explanation of why their first answer was incorrect, (3) fix the major assignment/project to meet the standards outlined for them at the beginning.  (Underlying message – Do it right the first time and there will be no need for extra credit!)  All regrading happens after school in the form of a conference between the two of us.  If I have to impact my time by grading a paper again, it needs to impact them, as well.

Oh, and by the way, the best they can get is a B or meets the standard, whatever the grading system is at the time. Students who meet the standard, get the B, are set.  And those that want to do extra credit to get an A...

“What do I need to do to get an A (or exceed standard)?”

Another teacher look. “Hmmm, what do you think you need to do to get an A?”

Amazingly, they always know what it would have taken to get the A the first time!  Sixth graders are so smart.    

I don’t like grades, but we’re stuck with that reality.  There are also good reasons to let someone opt out of homework- another discussion, another blog.  If they learn nothing else, I hope it’s that deadlines are important and their work is a snapshot of who they are, and who they will become. It’s a much easier lesson to learn at twelve than later on, because in life, there is no extra credit!

Still learning!

"Energy and persistence conquer all things."  Benjamin Franklin